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Some of you read my article on our bug in when we were at day 19. Well that has been awhile. I wanted to share with you how we are doing and what we have been up to since then. WOW, a lot has happened out there and here as well. We are at day 80 now. No grocery store. No Instacart either. We have been ordering things online a lot. Schwan’s frozen foods and some local businesses have been very nice to utilize but we realize that at some point shortages may happen that make some of those services not possible to use. Just to be clear the one time we broke our bug in streak, we went out at 4 am to a deserted gas island and filled up some gas cans.
That was March 2 and we haven’t been anywhere since that. It was about an hour total time. Just enough to get down the mountain to town and then we were just there long enough to fill the cans and turned right back around and came home.
We use maybe 5 gallons of gas a month on the farm because we use small machines like our Kawasaki Mule, weedeaters, etc. Gas is about the one thing that is hard to have delivered. It was kind of surreal to go into town at that hour. It was the last time I was there.
People ask me about how my life has changed and that made me realize how little it has in many ways. Matt and I gave up on the town life a long time ago. Staying at home a little more has changed things some for sure but not as much as a lot of people might think. Some of the changes are that we are eating and drinking a little differently. We have not had storebought beer in months for example. That is all made at home. We eat homemade pasta and we use every bit of food in some way. The goal is as little waste as possible.
I have my writing and I have hoarded up a big shelf of books so I can always have a good variety of books to read over the next few years. I like having a book stash anyway regardless of how long the pandemic might last.
We butchered two sheep a few weeks ago and put those in the freezer, something that we do every year. Matt started an amazing raised bed garden near the house so we have a good little kitchen garden to provide us with some greens, potatoes, onions, and basil. Things like that. We are going to plant a larger garden and some crops to help winter over our livestock as soon as our new walk behind tractor gets here. It took a bit of saving up for that purchase but we ordered a new BCS from Earth Tools in Kentucky, something we have been meaning to do for a long time. We have an older one that has issues but has a lot of good parts on it so if this situation lasts for a long time, we at least have some parts to fix things with, one of the reason why we just got the same machine we had before.
It is just the two of us working this place and I have my writing so we have to have some tools to help make up for that lack of labor and it is still a struggle to get things done. There is always something to do on a farm and homestead.
Our chickens have been doing good although we lost one hen to natural causes. There was something wrong with her egg production system. Matt and I have both seen this before. There is not much you can do about those types of problems. She had been laying eggs with blood spots on the outside of the egg. We were not sure which hen it was either which didn’t help. I think an egg might have either finally got stuck in her or busted. She was the only one laying thin shells regardless of the good feed she was getting.
These things happen and you just move on. We purchased an incubator to help keep our flock number up. We thought this was an important step to take. We are hopeful that a hen will go broody but we want to be sure. Our little incubator was around $70 and holds 9 eggs because we have really big hens. It came with the egg turner too and doesn’t take up much space. You just have to remember to add a little water every few days and then remove the egg turner part a few days or so before hatching.
It burns such a small amount of power that it is really easy to keep it going with our solar system or one of the Jackery power centers if the power goes out for any length of time.
In the past we had a large incubator. We really don’t need something big around here. We just want to hatch a few to keep our laying flock production up and have replacement hens and maybe a few birds to put in the stew pot at times.
Our sheep are still fat and pregnant. They cannot hold out much longer though since their udders are looking huge. Lambs are late this year due to switching rams and him being young.
I expect this next full moon or shortly after we will have a lot of lambs running around. Ours always like to jam them under logs to hide them after they have got them cleaned and sucking so it can take a few minutes to find them after we notice a mama is not with the herd. Our Great Pyrenees dogs get really excited and happy and guard them. Ruby Pearl is 10 now and she cannot stop smiling when baby sheep start dropping to the ground. Anyone that thinks dogs don’t smile has never seen a sheep dog during lambing.
Yesterday we picked mint and wild onions plus a few ramps to dry in the dehydrator. Our shiitake and oyster mushrooms should start fruiting again really soon because we just had a big rain. They provide a lot of health benefits and make a good meat substitute because they are so high in protein. It is a good way to get some protein from wood and the logs last a really long time. Matt and I had some logs that were producing after 10 years.
We are going to try to produce as much food as we can on the farm and stay away from town. Deliveries are still happening. We have utilized Schwan’s for frozen veggie and meat deliveries and some online retailers for other items. As long as deliveries are still happening it is a good idea to replenish supplies so you don’t burn through everything you have put back. I can honestly say we have not been to any grocery stores and participated in the scenes that have unfolded there throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. I considered using Instacart but we have not and do not plan on it.
At this point we are considering the long term outlook. In many ways this is nothing new for us at all. We are always looking ahead because that is what preparedness is all about. This time is a bit different though because there are clearly some supply chain issues. Here are some things that we are thinking about. I think a lot of people should be doing this so they can gradually acquire what they need in advance to get through next winter.
- What do we need to feed our sheep, chickens, cats, and dogs through the winter? How much feed do we need each month?
- What gaps are there in the household supplies? What do we need more of and what are we good on?
- What items that we like to have are most likely to be the hardest to find sooner rather than later?
- What winter clothing and supplies do we need? As many of you know, buying out of season can result in steep discounts. This summer is the time to buy winter clothes. I have a list of things that would be nice to acquire but we could do without if needed.
I plan on buying things as I can and spacing it out due to finances and also just so I don’t take the entire supply of something from a small store if I am buying local. While we plan on growing some sorghum and some corn for our animals, we know better than to not have a back up plan. This is why you put back some grains from a local feed store. If you need a lot of animal feed and have a means to haul it, I recommend contacting your local feed supplier and putting in an order well in advance so that they can be prepared to fill it.
This makes it easier for everyone because you are not going in and buying up all that they currently have in stock so that those that need just a few bags and are coming in when they can are left with nothing. Sometimes this gets taken out on the small business owner and that is not good. Letting a place know what you need in advance also makes it more likely that you are going to get what you need and not just returning home with 5 bags of corn when you need 10 to get through a season.
If you are ordering dog and cat food then you might want to order from 2-3 suppliers rather than placing a large order with just one place.
We have a few barns that need to be finished up. That is next on our list of major projects.
We have been trying to get in a position where we can get the supplies to finish up our barns so that everything is not a dusty mess. I am glad that Lowes and local hardware stores are delivering for a reasonable fee. It would take a ton of trips in our 4 cylinder Tacoma to get everything that we need because of the weight. Concrete block, Quickrete, and all that stuff adds up to literally tons of weight. It is well worth the delivery fee regardless of COVID-19 social distancing protocals.
It is so easy to have a ton of unfinished projects. We are really trying to knock some things off the list this summer. As of now we are not making the best use of some of our spaces because they are not finished, organized, nor is there a gravel floor in the barns to prevent dust or mud from being such an issue. Homesteading is one of those things where if you are not careful, you will start a ton of projects before finishing others.
If you are not keeping lists of things you need well in advance then you should be.
It is impossible to remember everything that comes to you even during the best of times. I find that I need to write it down on a list if Matt or I realize we need something now or in the future. Sometimes I just go stick it in the Amazon cart even if I don’t buy it off Amazon but here lately we just make lists that we can prioritize and buy as we can afford them. I used to not be so great with lists but the importance of planning in advance has become strikingly clear here lately.
So what do you think is going to happen Sam? That is a question that people ask me fairly often.
One of the harder things about my job is that it is my responsibility to be honest and not just tell people what they want to hear or what I would love to say and believe myself. At this point in the pandemic I would like nothing more than to tell everyone that this is going to be over in a few weeks and we will all have learned a lot and things are going to be normal.
But that would be a lie and a disservice to everyone that reads a word I have to say. It is my job to be honest with people, not just tell them what they want to hear.
It doesn’t exactly make you a popular person with a ton of friends in the real world to be that person.
That being said, here is what I think is going to happen.
First of all I believe that you cannot institute a long term lock down in the United States. People will not stand for it. We are already seeing protests and revolt in states such as Michigan.
Second of all the term lock down probably shouldn’t be used to describe what has happened in the USA. Our rules have not been nearly as restrictive or “draconian” as some put it as the measures taken in Italy, China, and India.
In the United States you cannot seal people up in their homes here and you sure cannot just go around thumping people up the side of the head or beating them with sticks when they break quarantine. The people won’t stand for it and they have the means to fight back.
Our “lock down” might have helped a little but if we really wanted to prevent COVID-19 from spreading we would have had to take more serious measures and that was just not possible in a country of armed people that are used to freedom.
The lock downs or quarantines are going to end sooner rather than later. I think the attitude and idea from those in charge regardless of political affiliation is that rather than fight against a revolution. It is far easier to just open things back up and let people take their chances.
Also, the longer stay at home orders are in place, and businesses are shut down, the more will never reopen again. I agree that the economy can only take being shut down for so long, I just also think that there may be some really harsh consequences of reopening sooner rather than later. There is no great solution for any of this.
That is not going to end well for a lot of people. Sure we may get some production going again but the cost of that could be a lot more infections and factories having to shut down regardless of any official lockdown or stay at home orders.
After being cooped up for so long, a lot of folks are going to be anxious to socialize, go to restaurants and bars, beaches, etc. There will be a period of people letting loose and not observing social distancing to a large degree.
Then a second period of elevated infection numbers will hit. It may take a few weeks due to the long incubation time but I think it is very likely. China is already experiencing a second wave of infection after their severe lock down was lifted. Why would we be any different? In fact it may be worse for us because it was impossible to do the level of lock down that they did.
As far as things going back to normal, I don’t think that things will ever be exactly the same. We are well on our way to losing more Americans within a few months to COVID-19 than were officially lost in the Vietnam War. That is a fact that a lot of people seem to be choosing to ignore when they criticize those that are treating the COVID-19 pandemic with great seriousness.
Right now we all need to concentrate on doing what we can and not as much on what we can’t change.
Battling something that you can’t see makes people feel helpless but I do think that a lot of folks are starting to realize that they are more capable of doing things than they realized. A lot of people went into this unprepared or lacking some of the skills they have now acquired.
A certain type of person is going to experience a sense of empowerment that might have been quite foreign to them in the past.
A lot of people like to say that plenty are talking big but when this is over they will go right back to being a lot like how they were before. While there may be a few, I don’t think it is fair to make such a wide reaching assumption while we are still dealing with an event the likes of which none of us have ever seen before. Ok, there may be a few people still alive that were babies during Spanish Flu but that is rare and they were far too young to remember anything about it.
The sense of accomplishment that comes with not having to call the repair person for every little thing and figuring out how to make and do things yourself is a strong motivator once experienced. It also doesn’t hurt when someone realizes that they are saving some money too.
While some like to talk about how lazy American’s are, the truth is that the average American worker puts in far more hours and takes far less time off than other industrialized nations. So while some may be lazy, as a whole we are anything but.
Allow yourself to think about how all that determination and hard work could pay off in the future when directed towards a greater variety of jobs and trades as manufacturing and other previously outsourced industries come back to the United States.
There is hope. People have overcome a lot of hard times. We have to try to see the strength in ourselves and others and figure out how to move forward. It is not going to be easy but then most things that are worth it never are.
Stay safe out there folks,